Have you ever seen cheerleaders at a baseball game or a golf match? Me neither. At least not the stereotypical kind with pom-poms. And it occurred to me that most professions outside of sports don’t have stereotypical cheerleaders either. But imagine walking down the corporate hallway on your way to an important presentation. On one side of the aisle are the hecklers, booing and sneering at you. On the other side are the cheerleaders, cheering for you and encouraging you! Which ones would you listen to?
The truth is, this scenario plays out every day on the playing field between our ears! Think about it: we are either boosting our confidence by internally cheering about our abilities and previous wins, or we are jeering at ourselves with previous mistakes, negative comparisons to others, etc.
I think the old-school cartoons captured this concept perfectly with the character who was trying to decide between good and bad. On one shoulder was the angel version of themselves—the “good” influence. On the other shoulder was the devil version of themselves—the “bad” influence. And they had to wrestle with who to listen to in making their decision.
My oldest son used to play youth baseball and now plays high school golf. Like most teenage boys, he is NOT the most expressive person, especially when it comes to talking about himself or analyzing his game. When he does talk about his game, he tends to have a pessimistic filter about his abilities, his challenges, and his potential outcomes. In spite of that, he still plays very well. But I can’t let go of the possibility of how much better he could play if he just changed some of his self-talk.
I was trying to convey this to him recently on the way to a tournament in which he was entered. I reminded him that when he played baseball, he had his coaches and all of us parents in the stands to cheer him on with things like, “You got this!” or “Great hit!” or “Nice play!” And when he struck out, he heard things like “That’s ok, you’ll get him next time!” and so on. I told him that since we couldn’t be there to do that on the golf course, he was going to have to do it for himself. He was already talking to himself, I pointed out. So he could either get down on himself with “jeers”, or he could cheer for himself. He could remind himself of his abilities, forgive his mistakes, and celebrate his wins—hole by hole. He needed to be his own cheerleader.
I don’t know if he bought into it or not, but I realized that that same advice applies to me—to us. We have to be our own cheerleaders at work. We need to be telling ourselves, “You got this!” and “Great job!” and “Nice work, Ace!” And when we fall short or make a mistake, we need to be saying to ourselves, “Hey, that was a nice try! Look what you learned! You’ll get it next time! Go for it!”
So who are you listening to: your self-jeers, or your self-cheers? The best part is we get to decide—not only to whom we listen, but even on what is said! The next time you hear those jeers in your head, cock your thumb and finger and flick him off your shoulder. Be your own cheerleader instead!
How about you? On the playing field between your ears, who usually has the louder voices: the hecklers or the boosters? Think about it, and feel free to share your thoughts below.
For your advantage,
P.S.– Stay tuned for a new e-book I’m working on about this exact topic!